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My Darling, You're Not Falling

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Nick's alarm goes off in the middle of the night just like it does every weekday. Louis presses his face into the pillow as Nick shifts and reaches across to the bedside table to make the horrible noise stop.

"Too early," Louis mumbles.

"I know, love," Nick says, his voice low and rough with sleep. He drops a kiss on Louis' temple, and Louis tries to hide his smile in the pillow as Nick gets out of bed. Louis hears the shower start before he drifts back to sleep.

Nick wakes him up again before he leaves. "Give us a kiss for luck then," he says.

Louis rolls his eyes and pushes himself up from the mattress. "You should be giving me a kiss for luck. Which one of us is playing Wembley today?"

Nick leans down and catches his lips and Louis finds he doesn't much care who's kissing who for luck after all. He reaches up and catches Nick by the shoulders, pulling him down towards the bed. Nick laughs against his lips and pulls away. "I have to go to work," he says.

"I know," Louis says, but he pouts a little anyway. His eyes drop to Nick's right hand. The plain gold band on his fourth finger glints in the low light. That ring says that Nick is Louis' forever, even if it is a secret. "Why did I marry you again?"

Nick rolls his eyes. "I'm a fantastic shag."

"Don't get too up yourself there, Grimshaw."

"That's not what you said last night." Nick's phone buzzes before Louis can take him to task for that truly terrible joke. "Car's here. I'll see you later love. Try to get a bit more sleep. You've got a big weekend ahead of you."

"Have a good day at work, honey," Louis says, batting his eyes.

Nick ducks down to kiss him once more before he leaves. Louis settles back against the pillows and listens to the front door closing. He thought nerves might keep him awake, but it's way too early in the morning, and he drifts off easily.

~*~

Louis is brought back to consciousness a couple of hours later by his phone buzzing incessantly on the bedside table. He moans into the pillow and wills whoever it is to give up and call back at a more reasonable time of day. The buzzing doesn't stop, though, and Louis finally reaches over to see who he has to kill.

Everyone Louis has ever met is apparently trying to contact him. The notifications come in so fast he can't even see who they are before a new one arrives. He blinks stupidly at the phone, willing his brain to engage and explain what is going on. Whatever it is, it's probably not good.

Thankfully, a call comes in, disrupting the neverending string of texts and alerts. It's Harry. Louis answers immediately.

"Hazza," he says. "Is that you blowing up my phone?"

"What?" Harry says. "No, but--" He pauses. "Have you checked twitter or anything this morning?"

"No. I was asleep."

"Right." Harry draws the word out into at least five syllables. "You should maybe do that."

"Do what? Harry, what's going on?"

"Something's happened."

Louis digs down deep to find his very small store of patience. "Yes, I can tell that because I have approximately one million texts. Can you tell me what kind of something it is?" Harry is silent for a worryingly long time, even for Harry. "Haz?"

"Your marriage license is on the internet," Harry says. "It looks like the Mail turned it up."

Louis can't breathe. All the oxygen has left the room, and his chest is caving in. "I don't-- how?" he croaks out.

"It is a public record," Harry says, but he sounds apologetic.

Louis' brain is trying to process way too many thoughts at once. "Right," he says. "I need to-- Harry I'll call you back."

"Of course," Harry says. "Let me know what I can do."

That startles a slightly hysterical laugh out of Louis. "Do? What can anyone do at this point?" He hangs up before Harry can answer.

Louis stares at his phone blankly. He should do something. Call people. Nick. He should call Nick. But Nick is at work. On the radio.

"Fucking bugger shit," he says to the empty bedroom.

Texting. He can text. It takes him about 20 minutes to compose a message between his shaking hands and the notifications that will not stop coming in.

Heads up. The Mail knows we're married. Come home soon please.

Nick's reply takes a few minutes to come. Louis is not panicking. Nick is at his job waking up the nation. He stares at his phone, waiting. Otherwise he won't know which notification is Nick among all the others.

!!! How?? Never mind coming straight back after the show. Love you xx

Louis puts his phone on Do Not Disturb mode. He absolutely cannot deal with any part of this right now. Tea, he thinks. He can handle tea.

~*~

Louis is on the floor in the kitchen staring absently into space, a half drunk cup of cold tea beside him, when Nick gets home, practically flying through the door and slamming it behind him.

"Lou, where are you?" he calls. "Did you know there are 8 million paps outside?"

"In the kitchen" Louis calls. His voice sounds wrong.

Nick comes in and promptly folds himself down onto the floor beside Louis, leaning into his side. They sit in silence for a few minutes.

"This is shit," Nick says finally. "I mean, it was always going to be shit, but the timing --" He runs a hand through his quiff. "I'm sorry, love. I know how much Wembley means to you."

Wembley. Right. They have a concert tonight. Louis is probably supposed to be somewhere right now, in fact. He seems to remember his diary being pretty full. But he can't seem to process anything beyond the paps outside, and a whole internet besides, wanting to know about his marriage license. Because he's married to a man. He's married to Nick Grimshaw.

"Lou?" Nick says. Louis realizes he needs to make some kind of verbal reply.

"I don't -- yeah, it really is shit."

They sit in silence for a little while longer before Nick starts fidgeting. "Shall we go sit in the living room? Take pity on your elderly husband and his aching joints?"

Louis manages a faint smile at the well worn joke. "Okay." He starts to get up, then stops as a thought occurs to him. "Wait. Are the blinds closed?"

Nick peeks up over the counter. "I think so. I'll check. You didn't close them before?"

Louis shakes his head. "Didn't want to risk being seen. S'why I'm hiding on the floor in the kitchen."

"Right," Nick says. "Hold on."

The blinds are all closed. Nick circles back around to the kitchen and gives Louis a hand up. Once he's on his feet, Louis doesn't let go right away.

"So," Nick says once they're settled on the couch, "Any idea how you want to handle this?"

Louis has so little idea about that he can't even reply.

Nick continues after a moment. "Because if you don't decide now, someone's probably going to decide for you."

Louis looks up at that. "What about you?" he asks.

"What about me?" Nick replies.

Louis scowls. He's being deliberately thick. "It's your marriage too. You're going to get just as much shit as me. What do you want to do?"

Nick's eyes go sad at that, and Louis' shoulders tense. "It's not really the same, though, is it? I mean, I've been out for years. I'm sure I'll get hassled for getting secretly married to a member of One Direction, and probably slagged off for being a pervert who's too old for you, but --" He trails off.

Louis knows what Nick means, but he doesn't really want to concede the point. Because if he does then he'll have to think about how he's been outed as both gay and gay married all in one day, and he's been trying really hard not to do that.

"Well, it was going to happen eventually, right?" Louis says, over bright.

"Yeah, but I'd hoped we'd be able to plan for it. And maybe have it not happen in the middle of your sodding sold out stadium tour, you know?"

Louis shrugs tightly. "Too late for that now."

"Yeah," Nick says. "But it's not too late to keep a bit of control. Decide how you want to handle it before you turn your phone back on, and don't let anybody tell you you're wrong."

Louis takes a deep breath and turns to look at him. "Yeah, all right. Help me decide then?"

Nick leans in and kisses him, quick and almost chaste. "Of course, love. Of course."

~*~

They decide to issue a statement, but not until after the Wembley dates are done. It's short and to the point, the wording nearly identical from the One Direction publicists and Nick's. Yes, the marriage license is real. Mr. Tomlinson and Mr. Grimshaw request that their privacy be respected in this matter.

And that's it. No interviews, no press conference, Nick won't discuss it on the radio, and any questions about it are off limits in band interviews for the foreseeable future. There's a niggling feeling in the back of Louis' mind that he's being a coward, but his personal life and choice of spouse really aren't anybody's business. So a statement and radio silence it is.

~*~

Louis stays at his own flat over the weekend to make it easier on their security team getting to and from the venue. Also he hopes it will take at least some of the media scrutiny off Nick. He's been effectively living with Nick for the better part of a year. He really only has the flat because property is a good investment. Oh, right, and because until Friday his big gay marriage was a big gay secret.

The flat feels sterile and empty when Louis stumbles wearily inside late Friday night after a frankly brilliant show that he wishes he'd been able to enjoy more. The place was professionally decorated with very little to indicate that it belonged to Louis specifically. Well, the Spiderman sculpture might be a bit of a giveaway, but that's only because there's no room for it in Nick's flat.

Louis' not used to sleeping alone anymore, not unless it's his bunk on the bus. The bed in his flat is enormous. It feels cold and empty without Nick snugged up beside him, ridiculous long limbs wrapped around him like a spider monkey.

Louis doesn't sleep very well over the weekend.

~*~

Louis has just finished a third sold out show at Wembley with his boys. There are a number of things he should be thinking about and doing, but he is only currently interested in finding his husband.

It takes a great deal of cunning to extricate Nick from eight little girls without being spotted, but Louis is up to the task. He drags Nick into some storage room or other and locks the door behind them.

"Hi," Nick says, looking a little winded.

"Hi. Missed you." Louis answered.

"Me too."

"You missed you?" Louis asks, putting on his most innocent expression.

Nick shoves his shoulder lightly. "You know what I mean."

Louis leans up and kisses him, taking his time before pulling back. He can't put this off forever.

"So um," he says, "I was thinking I might just stay at mine until we leave. Easier all around probably."

Nick just looks at him for a moment. "No," he says simply.

"No?"

Nick rolls his eyes. "No, it's not easier if my husband doesn't come home before he leaves to go traipsing across Europe for a month without me."

"First of all, I don't traipse. I saunter. Secondly, you know what I mean."

"Yeah," Nick concedes. "But it's going to be shit no matter what we do. Might as well deal with it together while we still have time."

Louis lines up all the arguments and objections in his head, gearing up to go down fighting.

Nick knows him well enough to see it coming, and his eyes go all pleading. "Come on, love. Don't make me do this by myself."

Louis is helpless against those puppy dog eyes, especially because Nick doesn't pull them out unless he really means it. And that would probably be enough to make him give in. But the truth is he really doesn't want to be alone either. He specifically doesn't want to be without Nick. So he heaves a big sigh like this is a terrible burden. He knows Nick can see right through it, but he has to at least keep up appearances. "Fine. If you insist."

"How gracious of you to do me this favor, Mr. Tomlinson." Nick tries and fails to hold back a smile.

Louis moves forward to press himself against Nick's chest. "You're very welcome, Mr. Grimshaw." He leans up on his toes a little to reach Nick's mouth with his own. They kiss for a few minutes before Louis pulls away. "Let's go home."

~*~

"You want a cuppa?" Nick asks when they get home, fiddling with the kettle.

Louis crowds him up against the kitchen counter. "Nope," he says and rests his forehead between Nick's shoulder blades. He wraps his arms around Nick's waist and just breathes for a minute.

Nick shifts and Louis loosens his arms to let him turn around. The kiss starts slow and deep. Louis falls into the familiar rhythm of it, the taste of Nick's mouth he knows so well. It's not long before Louis is panting against Nick's mouth. He pulls back. "Bedroom?" he asks. Nick nods.

Once they're naked, Louis falls back against the mattress. He looks up at Nick and licks his lips, a deliberate tease. "You coming?"

Nick raises his eyebrows. "Hopefully," he says.

Louis props himself up on his elbows. "Very funny, Nicholas. Get down here."

Nick gives in easily, draping himself over Louis. Louis loves the feeling of being surrounded by Nick, of Nick being so much bigger than him. They stay like that for a bit, kissing and lazily rutting against each other. Plenty of times they'll get each other off just like this, but tonight Louis wants more.

"Want you to fuck me," he says.

Nick pulls back far enough to meet his eyes. "Yeah," he says and reaches for the lube on the bedside table. When he pulls out a condom as well, Louis stops him.

"Not tonight. Want to feel you."

Nick nods and leans in to kiss him again before reaching for the lube again. He kneels back between Louis' legs and just looks at him for a moment. Louis sees a lot of things in his eyes, none of which he wants to deal with right now. "Come on, babe. Don't make me start without you."

Nick nods and pushes Louis' knees up and apart. He preps him thoroughly, even though Louis needles him to go faster. Nick keeps going until Louis is fucking down on his fingers, swearing, and definitely not begging. "Come on, Nick. Fuck me already."

Finally, finally, Nick pulls his fingers out and slicks up his cock. He slides inside easily, and they both groan. Louis can't think about anything but the feel of Nick filling him up and slowly starting to thrust. They move together, building a rhythm.

Louis is so close. He reaches between them to get a hand on his cock. It doesn't take more than a minute until he's coming. Nick fucks him through the aftershocks and then he's coming too, filling Louis up and collapsing on top of him.

Louis just lays there for a minute, feeling the solid weight of Nick against his chest and Nick's cock going soft inside him. He wishes he could just stay like this indefinitely, but of course things start feeling heavy and sticky all too soon. He shoves at Nick's shoulder. "Go get us a flannel."

Nick grumbles wordlessly, but he goes easy enough. Once they're the cleaned up, Nick falls back into bed beside Louis, tugging the duvet up over them.

"So," Nick says after a while. "Statement goes out tomorrow."

Louis concentrates on not tensing up. "Yeah," he says, trying to sound casual.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

Louis breathes in and counts to five before he answers. "No, I want to go to sleep. And so should you. You've got work at arse o'clock in the morning, as usual."

"Yeah, but--" Nick starts. Louis cuts him off.

"Sleep now. Talk later." He reaches over and turns the lamp off. He worries that Nick will take advantage of the fact that conversation does not, in fact, require light. Nick just sighs a little, though, and slings an arm around Louis' waist.

"Goodnight, love."

"Night."

~*~

Louis hides at home for the next three days and tries to forget that the internet exists. He doesn't do all that well. There's hours and hours during the day when Nick has to go to work, and Louis gets bored. He feels a little bit bad for making Nick face the paps outside alone, but he knows if he went out it would only be worse. So he stays inside and pretends he's not checking twitter.

The reactions he's not looking at are interesting to say the least. A lot of them are lovely, offering congratulations and well wishes. Of course, there's a contingent who are angry that he's not married to Harry. He should have seen that one coming. A few seem to be convinced that his actual marriage license is, in fact, a clever ruse to hide the fact that he really is married to Harry after all. Louis doesn't even know what to do with those.

There are some letting him know he's going to burn in hell for his vile sodomy and accusing him of leading the children into sin. That's to be expected, and he knows how ridiculous it is, but it's hard not to take it a bit personally when it's directed at him. He's never tried to lead anyone into anything but a bit of fun, and maybe a prank or two.

Nick's mentions are a lot of the same with the addition of some lovely accusations of being a paedophile and luring poor innocent Louis into his evil gay clutches. Louis laughs a bit at those, but he knows Nick will take it to heart. He'll pretend not to, but he will. He's so sensitive about their age difference. Louis used to joke about it a lot before he realized that Nick took it to heart. Now he doesn't tease about that anymore. Much.

~*~

Louis knows Nick wants to talk about it. He also knows that they should talk about it. It's the emotionally healthy thing to do. Also Nick has canceled Show Quizness and all the other features that take callers this week. It makes Louis' insides squirm with guilt to think he's hurting Nick's career. But he just can't make himself put the words together. It's too real already. He can't deal with any more than what he's already got.

So he takes advantage of the fact that Nick comes home every day looking tired and wrung out. Dealing with the paps and the public and putting on a happy face -- well, voice -- for work is taking it out of him. It's pretty easy for Louis to dodge the conversation starters and talk Nick into a bottle of wine and crap telly instead. It's even easier to talk him into bed after.

~*~

Louis waits to pack until the last minute on Wednesday night because when has he ever done anything else. Anyway, if he forgets something he can just borrow from one of the lads. He frowns as he rummages in a drawer.

"Nick," he calls. "Do you know where my Stone Roses t-shirt is?"

"No," Nick says. "Why would I know that?" His tone is a bit sharp. Louis turns from his packing to look at Nick who is on the bed doing something with his phone -- texting Aimee or searching himself on tumblr probably.

"Because we're married and we share washing. I thought you might have seen it."

"Well, I haven't."

"Fine," Louis says. "No need to get snippy."

"I'm not snippy," Nick says.

"Yes you are," Louis says, turning back to his packing.

"I'm not. But if I was maybe it would be because you've been putting me off for three days, and now you're packing like everything's normal." Nick's voice rises as he speaks.

Louis slowly puts down the socks he was holding and turns around. "Everything is normal," he says, taking care to keep his voice level. "I'm going to Europe, which has been planned for months and months. You're staying here to be on the radio in the middle of the night like always. I'll miss you loads, and you'd better miss me. Normal."

Nick's voice is quiet again when he replies and gentle in a way that makes Louis cringe. "Lou, you got outed. We got outed."

"Yes, thank you, Nicholas. I was actually aware of that."

"We have to talk about it sometime," Nick says.

"No, we don't."

"Come on. You're leaving in the morning."

"Exactly. I'm leaving in the morning. I need to pack, not talk about something we can't do anything about."

Nick pinches the bridge of his nose. "Just because you can't go back to hiding in the closet doesn't mean--" He drops his hand, seeming to realize what he's said.

Louis bites his lip. Hard. "Is that how you really feel?"

"No, Louis, come on. You know it's not."

"Apparently I don't."

"I didn't mean it like that."

"Well, what did you mean then? You mean I'm a coward because I don't want to share every fucking detail of my private life with the whole world? I thought it didn't matter what they thought. What happened to that?"

"It doesn't matter what anyone thinks or doesn't think. That's not the point. But you've got to face reality. We're both in the public eye, and we're going to have to say something to someone eventually. People know now. We can't take that back."

Why not? Louis wants to yell, but that's childish. More childish than this whole stupid argument. "So they know," he says. "Can't they just know and go about their business?"

"Oh, of course," Nick replies. "If we lived in some alternate universe where people weren't nosy pricks."

"Look, you said I needed to decide what to do. I decided. We issued a statement. That's it."

"That's it for this week maybe, but that can't be it forever. For one thing, I can't just never take a caller on the radio again. And you know some arsehole interviewer is going to put you on the spot no matter what is or isn't on the approved question list. You know this."

"No, I don't," Louis says. "Just because people are rude and invasive doesn't mean we have to answer their questions. Our marriage is not public property. It's mine, and it's yours, and nobody else is invited."

"Yeah, but --"

"No, Nick." Louis suddenly feels weary. "No buts. I can't deal with it. Let's just go to sleep."

Nick looks at him mulishly for a minute before he finally says, "Fine." He rolls onto his side and flicks the light off before Louis can even get in bed.

For the first time in a long while they don't touch while they sleep.

~*~

Louis pretends to sleep through Nick's alarm in the morning. It's an arsehole move and he knows it, but he just cannot face anything Nick might have to say. Nick stands by the side of the bed for a long moment before he leaves. Finally, he sighs. "Goodbye, love," he whispers. He kisses Louis' forehead and walks away. Louis ignores the way his throat gets tight at that. He listens to the door close, then rolls over and tries to go back to sleep.

When he wakes up, he finds his Stone Roses tee folded on top of his suitcase. He bites his lip hard to keep it from trembling.

~*~

They're in the green room in Stockholm between soundcheck and the show. Louis is trying to relax, and Harry is looking at him. He thinks he's being subtle, but he's really, really not. Not that it's possible to be subtle with that horrible floppy hat on.

"It's very rude to stare, Harold," Louis says mildly.

"I'm not," Harry says. "I mean, what?"

Louis shakes his head. "Uh huh."

Harry just looks at him, wearing his "trying to put a sentence together" face. Louis knows it well. "What?" he finally asks.

Harry scowls at him, but there's no heat behind it. "It's just --" He pauses. "I want to help, you know? But you're all clammed up like a clammy thing."

"Clammed up like a clammy thing? Really? That's bad even for you."

"You know what I mean."

"Not really, Haz. I'm a chatty clam. Swear." Harry looks like he wants to say more, so Louis levers himself up off the couch. "Going to find Zayn," he announces. Harry gapes at him like a goldfish for a moment.

"You know, Nick's my friend too," Harry says before Louis can wander away oh so naturally.

Louis huffs out a put upon sigh. "Obviously, Harold. A real friend would stop you wearing that hat, though." He promptly snatches the hat from Harry's head and runs away with it.

~*~

Louis hasn't talked to Nick since he left on Thursday. They've texted a bit, but Louis is busy, all right? Between the shows, the interviews, and all the other things that come with a world tour, he just -- can't. Doesn't have the time or the brain space to deal with the conversation he knows Nick wants to have.

On Sunday, though, they're traveling. They get to the hotel in Copenhagen early, and there's nothing else on the schedule for the day.

Louis swipes his phone open and looks at Nick's texts from this morning.

Call me when you get a chance babe

Miss you.

Guilt mingles with fear in a tight ball in his stomach. And he feels so stupid. Nick is his husband. There's no reason in the world he should be scared to call him. His thumb hovers over the call button for a few seconds before he makes himself press it.

Nick picks up on the second ring. "Louis, love, how are you? How's tour?" There's something nervous and over bright about his voice. That makes Louis feel a little better.

"It's all right," Louis says. "Stockholm was amazing. Just got to the hotel in Copenhagen."

Nick laughs a little. "Okay, jet setter."

"That's me," Louis says. "So how about you? Anything exciting happen?"

Nick hmms a bit. "Not really. Still a few paps hanging around, but most of them have fled for greener pastures now that you're out of the country. So thanks for that."

"Any time, darling."

They small talk for a while, but they've only been apart for a few days. Eventually, they drift off into silence. Nick clears his throat awkwardly.

"So. We should probably talk," he says.

Louis doesn't want to play stupid, but he can't seem to help himself. "We are talking."

"You know what I mean, love."

Louis sighs. "What is there to say, really?"

"Well," Nick says, "I have this little radio show. You probably haven't heard of it. But a big part of it is me talking rubbish about my life and my friends and family."

"Yeah, but you leave stuff out all the time. How many times has Harry been your gender non-specific 'friend?'"

"I know. And it was easy enough to leave you out of it when no one knew. But now the whole country -- well, the world really -- knows that we're married. It's going to be weird if I never mention you."

"The Great British listening public is not entitled to know every detail of your life during their morning commute. Can't you just -- not?"

Nick's silent for a moment. "But Lou," he says finally. "Even if I don't bring it up, some caller or other is going to ask. Screening callers is far from a perfect science. Someone is going to bring it up. And I can't just cancel Show Quizness forever. It's one of my best features."

Louis scowls at his empty hotel room. "Just tell them that topic is not open for discussion or something. It's not their business."

"I know, love. Believe me, I know. But they think it is. And now that the basic information is out there, there's only so long we can go without saying --" he pauses. "Something. We have to say something eventually."

"Well, can you just do your best for now?" Louis asks, feeling a bit desperate.

"You know I already am," Nick says.

And Louis does know. Canceling a major feature of the Breakfast Show for a whole week was a pretty major sacrifice. But he just cannot deal with Nick chatting to strangers about their marriage. He doesn't know what else to say to make Nick understand, though.

"Okay, well, I've got to get going." He doesn't. "Places to go, people to see, you know the drill."

"All right. I love you." Nick sounds kind of sad, and Louis kind of hates himself.

"Love you too. Talk soon." That last part might be a lie, but he feels like he has to say it anyway.

They hang up and Louis throws his phone on the bed. He stares moodily around the room for a few minutes before bouncing off the bed in a fit of restless frustration. He's going to find Zayn.

~*~

Louis leans into Zayn on the bed. They're watching an episode of Friends that happened to be on TV. "Zaynie," he says.

"Yes, Louis?" Zayn answers lightly.

"I hear Copenhagen has an amazing comic book shop," he says. "We should go."

Zayn's eyes light up. "Yeah, bro," he says, but then he stops and frowns. "But are you sure --"

"Sure that I want to see this important landmark honoring the world's fictional superheroes? Yes, Zayn, I am."

Zayn gives him a long look, but finally shrugs. "Okay, yeah, cool."

They get to the shop without a problem. When they come out, though, there's a few people milling around. Not a huge crowd, thank god, but word's clearly got out. They need to get back to the hotel.

"Hey, Louis. How you doing?" The guy is 40-ish and kind of scruffy. He's got a phone held up in Louis and Zayn's direction.

Louis is all too familiar with this particular brand of douchebag. They start off sounding pretty harmless, but they don't stay that way. He smiles tightly in the guy's direction and keeps walking.

"Are you enjoying Copenhagen? You like comic books? That's a really great shop, right?"

The skin on the back of Louis' neck and down his arms is prickling, and he concentrates hard on not clenching his jaw.

"How's married life treating you?"

And there it is. Keep walking. Just keep walking.

"Does Grimmy fuck you that good?"

They're almost at the car. Almost there.

"He fuck you so good he turned you into faggot, huh?"

Louis flings himself into the car behind Zayn, pulling the door shut behind him. He grips the edge of his seat and holds on, staring at the back of the seat in front of him but not really seeing it. Just hearing those words bouncing around inside his skull like an echo chamber.

"You all right, bro?" Zayn asks quietly.

Louis can't quite pry his jaw open to reply.

"You know you can't listen to dickheads like that, right? They just want to get a rise out of you to get hits on their shitty blog."

Louis nods slowly. He knows that. He does. That's why he kept walking. "Yeah," he says, but it sounds shaky. He looks over and Zayn's eyes are worried.

"You want to call Grimmy maybe?" he asks.

Louis shakes his head sharply. "Nah. It's no big deal. Price of fame and all that, innit?" And by the end of the sentence he sounds almost normal.

Zayn shakes his head, a small smile appearing. "Yeah, you wanker. Price of your immense fame."

"Our fame, Zaynie," Louis corrects and pulls him into a headlock.

Zayn laughs and struggles, finally shoving Louis away. The tension in the car dissipates, but Zayn still looks a bit worried. Louis ignores it. He's fine.

~*~

Liam finds him later. He's got his concerned eyebrows on.

"Hey, Lou," he says, wrapping one of his huge muscle-bound arms around Louis' shoulders. "Zayn said you ran into some trouble today."

"No trouble," Louis shrugs, Liam's arm lifts up as he does. "Just some dude with a camera and a big mouth. Same as usual."

Liam moves around so he's in front of Louis, his hand still resting on Louis' shoulder. "You know it's okay to talk about it, right? You don't have to put on a brave face or whatever. This is a big thing that happened to you. So like, it's okay. If you want to talk."

Louis blinks at him. "I know it's okay, Payno. But I'm really fine. No bottled up angst here, promise."

Liam's concerned eyebrows are warring with his skeptical eyebrows. Louis stares him down.

"Okay," Liam says finally. "If you're sure."

"I'm sure," Louis says and moves away. Liam's hand hangs in the air where Louis' shoulder was for a minute before he drops it back by his side. "Come on, Payno. Let's play FIFA."

Liam agrees easily enough, and he doesn't bring up uncomfortable subjects again that night.

~*~

Questions about Louis' marriage, his sexual orientation, or anything at all about Nick Grimshaw are all on the list of questions that are strictly off limits, your interview will be promptly terminated if you ask them, and you will never be invited to interview One Direction again in the future.

All interviewers are required to submit their questions for approval beforehand just to make sure there's nothing objectionable.

Through Sweden, Denmark, and France, everyone sticks to the rules. Louis can tell a couple of them are having real trouble holding themselves in check, but they manage it. And that's just fine. As long as no one actually brings up the elephant in the room, Louis is happy to keep smiling and talking ridiculous shit.

In Amsterdam, someone finally cracks. A part of Louis knew it was bound to happen, but somehow he's still not prepared.

It's a bright eyed brunette woman from some music channel or other. They've been talking for maybe 10 minutes, all the usual questions that Louis is so fucking bored of. He's about 75% zoned out when she says his name.

"So Louis," she starts. Louis brings his attention back to the matter at hand, ready to tell her his choice of super power or what he would do if he was invisible for a day or whatever it is. "You've been making quite a few headlines recently."

Louis' insides turn to ice. This is not happening. He attempts a bland smile, but he knows it's strained. "Well, we are on a world tour," he says, deliberately misunderstanding her and hoping she takes the hint. "Bound to be a few people who take notice."

"Actually, I wanted to know about your marriage to Nick Grimshaw. That came as quite a surprise to a lot of people. Would you like to comment on that? Perhaps you have something to say to fans who feel upset or even betrayed?"

Louis would not like the comment on that at all. What the fuck? He casts a glance past the camera where their PR rep Shannon should be keeping watch, but Shannon is nowhere to be found. His throat goes dry. He couldn't answer even if he wanted to.

Beside him, Niall bursts out laughing. The interviewer looks over at him, frowning. Louis can tell it's Niall's nervous and overwhelmed laugh, but he's sure this woman doesn't know that.

Niall's laughter fades away and there's a long, painfully awkward moment of silence. Then, thank all the gods, Liam leans forward from the second row and claps Niall on the shoulder. He looks at the interviewer. "Such a big fuss," he says. And there's a thread of steel in his voice. "Nobody made that big a deal of it when Niall and I got married."

And then it's all over. Shannon is back from the loo or wherever and calling a hasty halt to the proceedings. The boys crowd around Louis like some kind of human shield. He'd like to shrug them off, act like he doesn't need their protection. But he does, and right now he is so, so grateful to have them.

~*~

Zayn comes by Louis' room later. Louis' not exactly feeling up to company, but he lets Zayn in anyway. It's better not to leave any band members roaming free in hotel hallways, generally.

As the door closes, Zayn pulls a joint out of pocket. Suddenly, Louis is feeling a lot more charitable.

They go out onto the balcony. Not that Louis gives a shit about room cleaning fees or whatever, but Harry's disappointed little lectures on being polite to hotel staff haunt his dreams.

Zayn lights the joint, takes a hit, and passes it over to Louis.

Soon, Louis feels the weed doing its job. The tension he's been carrying since that stupid interview -- or maybe since he got that phone call from Harry two weeks ago -- unwinds a bit.

"So," Zayn says.

Louis looks over at Zayn. "So?"

Zayn doesn't say anything else, just watches Louis intently.

Louis holds out for a minute, maybe two, which is probably a personal best when Zayn is doing his stare creepily until you crack and open up thing. Finally, he huffs out a long breath. "It's just bullshit, isn't it?"

Zayn keeps staring.

"Why does everyone care so much what I do with my personal life? It's not their business. Would they be freaking out like this if I'd secretly got married to a woman?"

Zayn raises and eyebrow.

"Okay, okay. Probably. But it's different. You know it's different. I just -- people think they know all these things about me because I like men. Because I married Nick." He pauses, biting his lip. "If they know so much, why do they even need me to talk about it anyway?"

Zayn leans into his side. "Dickbags are always going to have dickbag opinions, mate. It's what they do. But like --" He hums thoughtfully to himself. "Not everybody's a dickbag, right? Like most people aren't. Maybe you could just think about talking to them?"

Louis scowls out at the Amsterdam night. "The dickbags are really loud, though."

Zayn nods against his shoulder. "I know."

~*~

The next afternoon, Louis is killing time at the venue before soundcheck. He texts Nick a stupid selfie with the stadium behind him. He captions it You're missing all the fun in Amsterdam!!

Nick doesn't text back right away. That's good. Louis doesn't have to feel guilty for being all avoidy if Nick's not waiting by the phone, so to speak.

A little while later, Harry comes and sits across from Louis in the green room. "Are you avoiding Nick?" he asks without preamble.

With great strength of will, Louis does not sit up or change his casual posture in any way. "No. I just texted him."

Harry looks skeptical. "Okay, but I asked him about the interview yesterday, and he didn't know what I was talking about."

Louis does sit up at that. "You told him?"

Harry nods.

"Why would you do that?"

"It wasn't, like, on purpose," Harry answers. "He's your husband. I assumed you'd have told him. Why didn't you?"

"He's got enough on his mind without worrying about things in a whole other country."

Harry looks baffled. "But worrying about what's going on with you is kind of his job, isn't it? Better, worse, sickness, health, all that?"

Louis gives Harry his most withering look. "I'm fine. So he doesn't need to worry. But he will, now that you've told him about something that doesn't matter at all."

"It does matter. And you're just worrying him more by not talking to him."

"Look, Haz, I get that you want to help, but I don't need an amateur marriage counselor. Nick and I are fine."

Harry gives him pretty epic sad eyes, but nods and stands up. "Whatever you say, Louis."

Louis looks down at his phone. There's a text from Nick.

Are you all right? Harry said some interviewer didn't stick to the approved questions??

Louis watches Harry leave and does not feel miserable at all.

~*~

Niall barges into Louis' room the next morning.

"Tommo!" he calls, making a god awful amount of noise.

Louis cracks one eye open. "What the fuck, Neil?"

"Up and at 'em, son!" Niall says in an American accent.

"Why? Why have you done this? We don't have anywhere to be." Louis thinks fondly of the beautiful sleep he was enjoying until a minute ago.

"Me and Leemo are going to Wimbledon. Thought you might want to get a lift with us. See the hubby."

Louis thinks briefly about smothering himself in his pillow. "No," he says. "Sleeping. But thanks for interrupting my beauty sleep."

Niall laughs. "Yeah, sorry. You clearly need it."

"Shut it," Louis says.

"You sure, though?" Niall rarely looks actively concerned. That's not his style. But Louis can read between the lines.

"Yeah, I'm sure. You two have fun."

Niall scuffs a trainer against the carpet. "All right. See you in a couple of days then."

"See ya, bro."

Louis tries to get back to sleep after Niall leaves. It's early and he's tired. But the guilt he can't seem to shake is settled in his stomach again. He knows he's not getting anymore rest this morning.

He swings his legs over the edge of the bed and goes in search of tea.

~*~

The tour rolls on. Louis is honestly too busy to even think while they're doing the filming in Milan. There are so many extra details to put in place, and it has to be perfect since it's for posterity and all that.

After Milan they get rained on. A lot. It's sort of fun and sort of miserable. Louis feels a little like a drowned cat, but he won't admit it.

By the time they arrive in Barcelona, Louis can't even pretend he doesn't have a countdown in his head. Five more days. Five more days. Five more days.

~*~

They've just finished a string of radio interviews, and they're breaking for lunch. Louis liked the last interviewer. She was a nice middle-aged woman, a little soft spoken for a radio presenter, and she didn't even hint at any inappropriate questions.

So he's only a little on his guard when she comes up to him while he's making a much needed cup of tea.

"Hi, Louis," she says. She looks a little nervous, which she hadn't in the interview.

"Hi." He pauses. "I'm sorry, what was your name?"

"It's Lucia. "Do you have a moment? There's something I wanted to tell you, off the record as it were."

Louis purses his lips, thinking about it. If she says something terrible, he supposes he can just leave. Or make her leave, actually. He gives her a cautious nod.

"I just wanted to thank you. My niece, she loves your band, and you're her favorite."

Louis smiles. "Clever girl," he says with a self deprecating head tilt.

"Yes, she is," Lucia says. "But she has some trouble in school. She's 14. The other kids, they make fun of her and her girlfriend. They can be so cruel." Louis' mouth goes dry. "But when she found out about you and your husband, it meant so much to her. To know that someone she idolized could be -- the same. She's so brave. And so are you. So I just wanted to say thank you. For helping her."

Louis is reeling. It takes him a long, awkward moment to come up with something to say. "What's her name?" he finally manages to ask.

"Nicole."

"Wait here a moment," Louis says. He darts to another corner of the room where they have posters and various promotional items. He grabs one at random and reaches for a pen.

Nicole, Stay strong. You're braver than you know. Love, Louis

He jogs back over to Lucia and holds out the poster. "Please give this to her," he says.

She takes it and reads what he's written. "Thank you," she says, and she looks a little misty. "She'll love it."

"Least I could do," Louis says, glancing down at his feet and feeling uncharacteristically shy.

Then they're herding any straggling press out of the room, and Louis is saved from having to come up with anything else to say. Lucia looks back and waves at the door. Louis raises his hand in return, and he's pretty sure his cheeks are pink.

Niall appears from somewhere and bumps their shoulders together. "You okay? Was about to come over and save the day, but it seemed like you were doing all right."

Louis scoffs. "Of course I was all right. You think I'm scared of one little radio presenter?"

Niall laughs, happy and open. "Course not, Tommo. But it was okay?"

Louis smiles at him. "It was fine. Nothing to worry about."

Niall nods. "Okay then," he says and bounds off.

Louis thinks about niece Nicole and her girlfriend for the rest of the day.

~*~

After the show that night, Louis thinks about calling Nick. He misses him, and he probably should. He's just not sure what would come out of his mouth if he did. He takes the coward's way out and texts instead. It's a Tuesday. Nick's probably already sleeping anyway.

What would you do if your favorite popstar came out when you were 14 ?

Nick texts back a few minutes later.

Well… he did eventually

What? Who??

Ricky Martin

Louis lets out a disbelieving laugh. Another text comes through before he can type out Really?

And you know I trust you because this is my deepest darkest secret

I'm telling Harry

Harry knows.

How dare you? We're married and Harry knows more of your secrets than me?

Not more, just that one. He tickled it out of me.

Why do you ask anyway? You have little baby gays falling all over themselves for you?

Louis grins.

Not exactly. Just … Thinking.

Okay. You all right then? I was just getting into bed.

Yeah fine get some sleep. Love you Louis adds an obnoxious number of heart emojis to the message.

Nick sends back even more hearts, an aubergine, and three prawns. Of course.

~*~

A few days later they're in Portugal for the last show of the European leg. Louis' practically vibrating with nervous energy and driving everyone to distraction.

He's kicking a football against the wall because no one would play with him. As he kicks, he mutters "Last show, last show, last show" under his breath. At some point, he starts singing it to no tune in particular.

Zayn throws a balled up piece of paper at him from across the room. "Will you shut it?"

Louis turns to face him. "We're going home! Aren't you excited?"

Zayn stares at him flatly. "Yes. I'm hoping I can get there without killing you. Why don't we play the quiet game? Doesn't that sound like fun?" His voice takes on a tone like he's talking to a five year old.

Louis scowls, but he can't hold the expression for long. "I'm going to find Harry," he says. He kicks the ball against the wall one last time before leaving the room singing "Last show, last show, last show."

Louis finds Harry and throws himself across his lap. "Last show!"

Harry looks down at him. "Yep," he says calmly.

"Exciting times," Louis declares.

"Looking forward to going home?" Harry asks, sounding a bit cautious.

Louis pretends to think about it. "Hmm," he says, tapping his chin. "Yes, I think I am, actually."

Harry smiles, but not like he thinks it's funny. He's giving Louis those big stupid earnest eyes of his. "I'm glad."

"What are you on about, Harold?" Louis says.

"Nothing. Just let me know when the reunion sex is over. I want to come see my couple friend again."

Louis rolls his eyes. Harry insists on referring to him and Nick in the singular. "We are separate people, you know."

Harry shakes his head, grinning wide and affectionate. "Nah."

~*~

It takes ages, but they finally make it to show time, and Louis can put his excess energy to use. He's feeling great by the middle of the show when Liam brings the house lights up to read out some of the signs.

"All right, let's see what we've got," he says, scanning the crowd. "Oh, Harry, you have to read this one."

Harry gallops over to his side and peers at the sign. "Oh, of course," he says. Then he dutifully puts on his Marcel voice. "Cute as a button, every single one of you." The cheering is (more) deafening.

Liam looks at the other side of the stage. "Oh, I love you more than free wifi. Thank you. That is a huge compliment. Thanks."

Louis walks over to Liam's side while he looks for one more to read out. Then Liam goes still. "Oh, wow." The mike catches the words, but it sounds a bit like Liam didn't mean to speak out loud. He reaches over and slings an arm around Louis' shoulders, drawing Louis into his side. He points and Louis scans the crowd in that direction. Then he sees it. It's a large poster with a rainbow border. In all caps, it reads "PROUD TO BE A DIRECTIONER" and underneath, a bit smaller, "We Love You Louis!!!"

Louis does not get choked up on stage because that would be unprofessional. He thinks about Nicole again and about the thousands of supportive tweets and messages that hadn't meant much just days after being outed. There are a lot of people out there that seem to have a lot of faith in him. He's sure he doesn't deserve it, but he thinks it's about time he started to try.

~*~

Louis gets home on Monday morning while Nick's still at work. He's already been papped at the airport with his wedding ring on. He made sure to wave with his left hand. A few enterprising souls followed him home.

It's refreshing not to care -- at least not any more than he usually does when paps follow him around. He should really see if they can get one of those restraining orders around the flat like Harry's got, though. Would be nice not to have to worry about strangers with cameras peering in the windows.

He drags his suitcase up to the bedroom, but he doesn't have the energy to start unpacking. He toes his shoes off and flops across the unmade bed. For a few minutes, he just lays there, enjoying having nothing pressing to do and nowhere to go.

He scrolls absently through his phone for a bit, not really paying attention. It was a very early morning, and he feels himself drifting off. He must fall asleep at some point because he wakes up when he hears the front door open.

"Louis? Babe, you home?" Nick calls.

Louis blinks and shakes his head trying to wake himself up. He fell asleep with his contacts in so his eyes feel dry and gritty. "Yeah, in here," he answers. He's managed to get himself sitting up on the edge of the bed by the time Nick comes into the bedroom.

Nick smiles at him from the doorway. He looks so good. Louis drinks in the sight of him after a month apart. But he also looks tired. Not tired like he gets up at five every morning, tired like he's been hounded by paps in the street and been doing his job with one arm tied behind his back for weeks. And that brings back all the guilt Louis' been carrying around Europe.

He opens his mouth to say "hi" or make some stupid joke or something, but what comes out is, "I'm sorry."

Nick tilts his head. "What for?"

The answer is too big to wrap his head around. Louis gives up and launches himself at Nick. He wraps his arms around Nick's waist and buries his face in his chest. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I'm such a dick. I'm sorry."

Nick's arms come up and wrap around Louis' shoulders. He rubs soothing circles on Louis' back and makes little shushing noises until Louis winds down.

When Louis finally lifts his head, Nick's t-shirt may or may not be wet. Nick rubs his thumb across Louis' cheek, but he doesn't comment on it.

"There's nothing to be sorry for, love," Nick says.

Louis shakes his head. "Yes, there is. I've been avoiding you and sticking my head in the sand and just -- just being awful. Let me be sorry for being a sad excuse for a husband all month."

Nick gives him a long look. "All right," he says. "I accept your apology then. How's that?"

Louis nods. "Better."

"I understand, though. Coming out is shit at the best of times. And this was definitely not that."

"Still," Louis says.

Nick shrugs. "So what do you want to do now?"

Louis takes a deep breath. "Come out."

"Bit late for that, isn't it?"

Louis shakes his head. "No, like come out properly. Do an interview. All that."

"By yourself?" Nick asks.

Louis smiles up at him. "No."

Nick grins. "Okay, then," he says.

Louis beams, pushes up on his toes, and kisses the smile off his husband's face.

~*~

Attitude Exclusive: Louis Tomlinson and Nick Grimshaw speak publicly about their marriage for the first time!

When news of their marriage broke over a month ago, One Direction star Louis Tomlinson and Radio 1 DJ Nick Grimshaw were extremely reluctant to discuss it, issuing only a brief press release and refusing all interview requests. Millions of One Direction fans and music lovers the world over were left to wonder as speculation about pop's biggest shocker of 2014 ran wild on Facebook and Twitter.

Now, though, the couple are breaking their silence in an exclusive interview with Attitude.

Attitude Magazine: What made you decide to finally speak out?

Louis Tomlinson: Well, we were always planning to go public eventually. But it was such a shock to have it discovered by the tabloids and to have that control taken away. We needed some time to adjust. Mostly me. I just wasn't prepared to deal with coming out in the middle of a world tour.

AM: But you are now?

LT: Yeah. I won't say I would have chosen to come out now if I hadn't been shoved into it a bit. But now that I've had some time to think about it, I think being open and honest about it is the right thing to do.

AM: And what about you, Nick?

Nick Grimshaw: Well, it's a bit easier for me. I've been out for ages just as myself. There was a lot of attention about me getting married to a high profile pop star. But nobody thought I was straight or summat, so it was a different kind of attention for me, I think. Also I'm not half as famous as Louis.

AM: So what was the wedding like? Obviously it wasn't your usual big splashy pop star wedding.

NG: [Laughing] No, not at all. It was really small, because not too many people could know. But I think we liked it better that way too. Just the people we care about most.

AM: Who was there?

NG: Just our families and a few close friends. My mates Aimee, Gillian, Colette and Henry were there.

LT: And the boys came. Oh, and my friend Stan. That's it.

AM: The rest of One Direction were there?

LT: Yes.

AM: And are your bandmates supportive? Has it caused any problems?

LT: No, no problems at all. They couldn't be happier for me really. We all support each other. It's always been that way.

AM: Did they know you were gay before?

LT: They did. It wasn't ever a secret between us. When we first got together after they put us in a band on X-Factor we were all sharing our deepest, darkest secrets. And that was mine, I suppose. They all said they'd support me in whatever I wanted to do. They would have been fine if I'd come out on the show, but I wasn't ready for that yet.

AM: Now, what about you as a couple? How did you get together?

NG: You know, it's funny. We actually started off arguing quite a bit. Harry and I became fast friends when we met, and Louis and I saw each other a lot because they're so close. But at first we didn't get on.

AM: Why's that?

NG: Probably because we both love attention. We were always competing with each other to be the most obnoxious person in the room.

LT: Excuse you, Nicholas. You might be obnoxious, but I am a delight.

NG: Of course you are, love.

AM: So when did that change?

NG: Summer before last. I had a few friends round. Harry and Louis were both there. It got late, and everyone else had gone home.

LT: Harry was passed out on the couch.

NG: Right. So everyone else had gone but Harry, and he was unconscious. There wasn't anyone left to pay attention to us but each other.

LT: And I just had to distract myself from his stupid hipster outfit and his ridiculous hair.

NG: Right. By snogging my face off. Very effective.

LT: I thought so.

AM: And you were married this January?

LT: The twelfth of January.

AM: So you've been together for around two years then?

LT: Right.

AM: And Nick, you've been out publicly most of that time. Was it hard keeping your relationship a secret?

NG: Maybe a bit. I do tend to wang on about everyone I know, so it was a bit odd to leave out this big part of my life. But it wasn't really that big of a deal. Louis is in a very different position with his career and the band, and I understand that. I was fine leaving it up to him to say when the timing was right.

LT: Tabloids got there first, though.

NG: Yeah, that wasn't ideal.

AM: Do you regret it now that it's out there?

LT: No. Not any more. It was a shock at first, but it forced me to think about some things I hadn't thought about before.

AM: Like what?

LT: Well, I always felt like my relationships should be my business. I didn't get why anyone would want to know unless they were just nosy. But I realized it wasn't just about me. I could help people by being honest. One Direction has a lot of young fans, and some of them are questioning their sexuality or dealing with bullying. So if I come out and say that I'm gay, and my husband and I are very happy, and there's nothing wrong with any of that, then maybe some of those kids will have it just a little bit easier.

[Nick hugs Louis.]

AM: It's great to hear you say that. LGBT youth are really in need of representation and role models.

LT: Oh, please don't call me a role model.

NG: That's terrifying, that is.

LT: Thanks, very supportive.

NG: You just said you didn't want to be one!

AM: Just one last question. Now that you're married, are you thinking of starting a family?

NG: Oh lord. That sounds like being a real adult.

LT: And I'm only 22. It's a bit early to be thinking about children, especially while I'm still touring so much.

NG: Maybe in a few years, babe?

LT: Yeah, I might like that when I'm a washed up old has been.

NG: You'll always be a superstar to me.

AM: Thank you so much for your time.

LT: You're very welcome.

NG: It's been lovely. Thanks.

Visit our website to see the (adorable) behind the scenes video of Louis and Nick's cover shoot.